The Art Selling Pyramid
- Coming up on today's edition of the "Art Business Mornings show" which again is in the afternoon, my apologies. What is it? "The Art Selling Pyramid," okay. What is it? Why understanding it is critical and to call to action, to bolt into your existing business if you're missing a piece of it. (drink fizzing) (soft music playing) All right, welcome to another edition of "Art Business Mornings," the show that'll put you on the path to a six figure a year plus art business. And it turns out that the path to a six figure a year art business is actually a pyramid. This particular pyramid has three blocks to it.
And, you know, the pyramid represents what I believe to be the ideal business model, call it business model, call it framework, call it premise, you know, it's the pyramid, right, for how you should be thinking about running your own business. And it's genesis, you know, comes in no small part to being in the trenches in this business now for a number of years, I was specifically trying to sell art and photography online and off for the thousands of artists and photographers that I've talked to over the last year on the art business workshops, you know, both the ones that are already Art Storefronts customers, but especially the ones that are not customers, right, that are just coming onto the webinars. You know, I've been running essentially three of those things a week since March of last year. So even over a year now, and man, I have interacted with every type of artist or photographer imaginable, every niche all over the country, all over other countries. in the words of Hunter S Thompson, a multi-colored galaxy of uppers, downers laughers and screamers, I always loved that line. But you know, a wide swath with every story imaginable, every niche imaginable, every medium, every type, every blended hybrid business, I really just, I've had a great opportunity to just talk to so many of you and just artists and photographers throughout the year and hear so many different stories about where they are in their business, what's unique to them, what are they doing well with? What are they struggling with? So that's been a big one.
It's also been refined this concept by really studying our customer's data. And I always throw that out there, but back in the day, we weren't looking at it anywhere near as close to what we're looking at now, you know, who's capturing the most leads and what are they doing? What's the story there? Who's selling the most? How are they doing it? What's the story there? Who's selling the most prints? Who's selling the most commissions? Who's selling the most originals? How are they doing that? How are they achieving these levels of success? Let's look at the data, let's look at what their emails look like, their Facebook posts, their Instagram posts, how are their average order value like, we've really, really been doing some deep dives into the most successful artists and what makes them tick, what sets them apart from everyone else. And this whole thing was given even more teeth based on the NFT thing, right? So, you know, people made his, and we talked about this a couple episodes ago, but people made his original like what, $3.5 million sale in his backyard, then a tease which sort of started the whole craze, and then the next day, I think I mentioned this on an earlier episode, but the next day I was, you know, playing around with Clubhouse and he was in this Clubhouse talking about NFTs. And not only was he in there, there was a whole bunch of big wigs and top creators like across the board, there was a, you know, some global director of such and such and Sotheby's, you know, there was the CMO of Artsy, Gary Vaynerchuk was in there, I would say Bebo was in there, Elon Musk's wife was in there, just like a bunch of really big wig creators and they were all sort of just, you know, talking about their art, their craft, selling it, what their businesses look like and it was super fascinating.
You know, and it turns out no matter where you are on call it the artist creator ladder, right? If you're on the very top rungs like a lot of those guys were that I just mentioned, or if you just reached up and you just grabbed the first one or anywhere between, it turns out everyone has the same problem in 2021 in the year that we're living in. And, you know, also the new art market report that just came out from Art Basel and UBS sort of put some color to this whole thing. And it sort of spurred the creative thoughts that created it, that laid it out, and I think it's one episode back by the way, there's a link to get that report, I think you should check that out if you haven't already. So let's talk about the pyramid succinctly and then I will go into more detail. It's a pyramid with only three blocks, three blocks, that's it. Number one, attention is at the bottom, with it you can do anything, without it no one will ever see and perhaps just importantly, buy anything you've ever created.
Number two, the next block and the next one on top is the three ways of selling art. And then number three, the top block is everything else, it's everything else. And in total, like, you know, I started the show, didn't put you on the path, this is the path, this is absolutely the path as far as I see it. If you prefer the men to learning creed, this is the way, this is the way to build a profitable art business. And not just, you know, a profitable art business either, a business in which you the artist and the photographer call the shots, a business in which you dictate its growth and level of success, a business, you know, in which a pandemic, a future pandemic or whatever else comes down the pike not only will not destroy your business as it has to so many, but it's gonna give you, it's gonna proffer you the opportunity to actually prosper in spite of it, in spite of it and I love that aspect of this particular model.
And, you know, I've been sort of laying it out in my mind and as I've been constructing it, you know, I'm definitely sort of borrowing from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right? And it conceptually it's sort of very similar and Maslow's pyramid, I had it up, I had a screenshot, but, you know, essentially you gotta take care of your basics first like your food, your water, your shelter, your safety and then you start going up the chain and you can start dealing with personal needs and psychological stuff. But the larger point is, you start at the bottom and you move up the pyramid, right? And so it borrows a little bit from Maslow, for sure. So let's start building this thing one block at a time but I can kind of lay out my argument.
So let's talk first about the attention block, okay. This is every single artist or photographers biggest problem. It has been, it is, and it will be for the foreseeable future. And you know, I've been ranting about attention on the show for years.
So if you've been a longtime listener, you're like, yeah, I get it, trust me, you know, I understand attention, right? But you know, every week, week in week out good old 11 Monday, Wednesday, Friday, okay. 11:00 AM PST hits, right? And I boot up a Zoom session and I'm greeted with a grid of faces of new artists and photographers that I'm gonna get to talk to on one of the art business workshops and, you know, week in, week out, what do they do? They tell me what they think their problems are, what's preventing them from taking the next step in their business and what they're struggling with and all these various different things, you know, is it how to get started or is it niche selection or do they think they have a website problem or do they think we have an art validation problem and whatever it is it ends up, you know, inevitably coming up on the Zoom calls. It, you know, in some cases don't get me wrong, they're legitimate problems, in some cases they're not but I have to reply to all of them the same way every single solitary time you do not have a website problem or a how to get started problem, okay? You don't have a niche selection problem, you don't have any of those problems why, right, like they're like what? What do you mean? Because in order to even have a website problem or a how to get started problem or a niche selection problem, you need to solve the attention problem, okay? It's sorta like a car parked in your driveway, you know, it might have a brake problem or a transmission problem or maybe one of the fuel injectors are bad, but that's not really a problem because the car won't start and it's not moving. Without attention, the car is never gonna get out of the driveway, without attention, you can't even have the website problem, so in order to have the website problem, you need to fix the attention problem first, right? So it's, you know, it's the currency of the land, okay, with it, you can do anything without it, no one will ever see your art or photography, your product, your creations, and a hundred percent of the people, okay, that come on to those Zoom calls and a hundred percent of the people that are listening to this right now. And yes, us too, Art Storefronts, this podcast, whatever I'm trying to grow, we all have an attention problem. Marketing source are the attention problem but we all have to solve the attention problem.
And I've been quoting this guy, I jacked it from a book, hold on, I gotta find his name, Herbert Simon. And this guy pointed this out in the 1970s, and he said, when information becomes abundant attention becomes a scarce resource. Well, it's 2021, and attention is the scarce resource.
Had to have Dr. Herbert for me and way ahead of the curve on that one. And you know, this is the first thing that we need to solve, we need more and more that and it's a non-stop battle. You know, in Maslow's case, you know, in the caveman days, right, before you can ever worry about anything else and especially making your cave paintings, you artists, you had to get out of the cave and go get some food, right, you have to feed yourself. The primary one in Maslow's hierarchy is, you know, feeding yourself. And so too, with the attention problem like, it's like eating, you have to work at it every single solitary day, it's a daily struggle, it's a daily battle, it's the first thing that we need to do, right.
You know, you have to always work on getting more attention. It's the battle, it's the fight, it's the whole ball of wax, it's the whole ball of wax, there's a reason that it's the very, very bottom in the pyramid. And you know, my favorite often cited real-world example is the Kardashians. The Kardashians are some of the most powerful women in the world, why? They have the attention, that's it. They have the attention, with it, you can do anything, and those lovely ladies have done that and more, right. You can cast dispersion and perhaps even make moral arguments about how they obtain that attention, but the numbers are the numbers.
The ladies got the attention, they monetized it, and whether you care for the tight spandex, Gucci wear and a lot of them, they ain't flying commercial, okay? They haven't flown commercial in years. So you got to respect them for understanding the currency of the age, in that it is attention, and how they got it, how they monetized it and turned it into these massive businesses that they all seem to have. So you don't need, I don't need, we don't need a Kardashian level of attention, okay, but the point remains, it's the currency of the land, and with it you can do anything, with it you can do anything, so it is fundamentally the bottom of our pyramid, right, it is the number one block, it's the one thing that you need to solve for first. Once you started working on that, you understand that you get to the second block, and the second block is the three ways to sell art block, okay. And you know, this one you kinda need to think of is like a Reese's peanut butter cup.
And the three ways to sell art is the peanut butter, but we've got that chocolate layer on the outside that we need to talk about first, and the chocolate layer in this case is one part the business model, and then a second part collectors. Okay, let's talk about the business model first. You know, the business model is selling direct by which, I mean, the artist, the photographer is selling directly to the end customer, no one is in between you and the end customer that's purchasing the work, right.
And, you know, by selling direct, this enables the artist, the photographer to retain all of their customer's data and information such that they can market to these folks in the future. And what this enables is when you do retain all your customer information, you have the ability to generate a list of collectors. So let's talk about collectors, what is a collector? A collector is an individual that will buy an upwards of seven pieces from you from over the course of your lifetime, okay.
So you keep getting better, your prices keep going up, the collectors just go along for the ride. Some of them will buy 20 of your pieces over the life of your career, but there's just, let's just say seven pieces and up and we can get into how you establish a list and then I'll probably do an episode on this later, but this one is not addressed or spoken about in my estimation, anywhere near enough. And as the years go on, you know, six years doing this, I think for Arts Storefronts now or something along those lines and you know, some of our customers have been with us for six years, and the data that I see on this, I mean, I get smacked in the face with this one on a regular basis of just how important it is to have a collector list, how important it is stretched out over years to have a collector list, and, you know, an easy way to think about it is let's take it out of the art world for a second and let's say you were a farmer, right, you were a farmer and you are growing tiny red chilies that they used in hot sauce, okay, and let's just say directly next door to your farm was a Sriracha Hot Sauce Factory, you know, the Red Rooster loved that stuff, and they pretty much guaranteed that they were gonna buy 40% of your crop every time it was ready for harvest. So no matter what, whatever you created, 40% of it was sold guaranteed your neighbor. That's the sort of security that a collector list can potentially give you. It can be an even higher percentage than 30% but your only job is that you have to go out and sell the other 60%, the 40% of what you create is just gone, it's taken care of.
And that's just a, guy, it's a profound, profound thing to contemplate. Because if you're in a position where you're not getting it, you know, you're in big, big trouble over the long-term and I just played sort of producer on this one not like the previous ones, but it was it was another live art show, it was another live art show with the customer, this went down just last week and, you know, announced the show on Friday, it was gonna be on Wednesday, I think on Tuesday, and I think there was 80 pieces or something like that, 85 pieces in the show. And this particular artist sent an email to all of our collectors and said, hey, here's the show because you're valued collectors, you guys all get first to look, I'm going to take the thing live on Wednesday, if there's anything that you would like, just let me know, thank you so much for being a collector, you know, et cetera. And I think she sold 35 of the 80 pieces before the show even started, before the camera even got turned on, they started doing it, so it's just phenomenal.
I mean, it's almost like a, it's like a pension, it's like a pension for your business, it's just how it's so important. So I think once you have the business model in place, right, once you understand the collector list, the chocolate on the outside of the Reese's pieces is sorted and we can get into, you know, the three ways, right, which is the peanut butter in my Reese's example. So the three ways to sell it and I'm gonna order them sort of, by how effective they are, right, or stated another way, start at the top of this list and move down, right, and what is the best way to sell art or photography? In-person, face-to-face, always has been the best way, always will be the best way.
You'd wanna take every opportunity you can to get face to face with a potential buyer, explain the product and sell it, we all know that. The next best way and the newest way, right, the way the entire art and photo world, along with a myriad of other industries for that matter is trying to figure out right now, is trying to develop the Tradecraft and the technology, and how do you do it, and what's the best way to do it all that selling via live video, doesn't matter what the app is, what the program is, whether it's one-to-one, you and a potential collector or one to many, the live art show example, you to thousands, right. It is the newest, hottest, most incredible way to sell art in, I would say it's the most exciting development to happen in the art world since forever, just full stop.
It's fundamentally changing how business is done in a drastic, drastic way, in an amazing way, so that's number two. Number three, you know, the next best way is via your website, via your website. Now, while important in the sense that your website is always open, it never sleeps, right, you do need to sleep, it can have, you know, 50 conversations at once, something you're not capable of doing, so it's great with that, do I think the website is important? Yes, I do, yes I do, but here comes the shocker, it's still the worst way of the three to sell art, the worst way of the three to sell art. You know, the check down list should go you know, and I realized like, wait, Patrick that sounds like blasphemy, I thought that's what you guys sold, ish, ish, right? Yes, a website is a part of it because it's one of the three ways and you need to have one.
Really what we do though is teach you how to maximize and leverage all three of them. And, you know, sort of let me explain them, and I love having this mental model, this way of thinking about things that we're always gonna go back to retail, take everything back to the retail context. When we think about what we're doing digitally with our marketing in this digital interconnected, that, that, that the world we live in, you know, thinking about the retail example is sort of like the key that unlocks, you know, a really nice and easy way to succinctly explain things and let me sort of build on that. So, you know, your art business is just basically a store on main street, it's a store on main street, so what is the best way to sell art? If it's in person, you're in that art store, I come walking in, I get to know like and trust you, you explain to me who you are, what you do, your inspiration, pricing, everything else, and I potentially buy it, right, that is the best way to sell it.
Okay, well, what about all the people that don't live in your town and are never gonna come down to main street? So you turn the video on, however, you're gonna do that, and it's you in that same art gallery walking through it, explaining via video, right, next best thing, pretty damn close to the number one best way to sell art, right. And then number three would essentially be your art gallery, and this is your website, your art gallery on main street with the doors open and no one inside of it. There's no one inside of it, there's no one to help them, it's open, you can come in at any point in time but you just have to read the manuals and talk to the robot and press some buttons, right, the retail just makes it all make sense. And so when you think about it in that context, it's like, oh yeah, you know, if I had a store, would I just leave the store open and let people walk in, and not talk to them, and not help them, and not give them that type of experience, no, absolutely not, right. But you still have to have a website, it's critically important, it's just not the number one.
So you wanna be on the path to a six figure a year art business, you need to understand the three ways of selling art and you need to be deploying all three of them in your business, and learning, getting better at all of them, what that all looks like and what that all pretends, I mean, I think that's just, it's critical, it's critical, so two rungs in, okay. The third round, the next block rung, I should say blocks, the next block in, you're working on getting more attention on a daily basis, you are deploying the three ways in your business, what's left? Everything else, everything else. By which I mean any and all additional revenue sources that you can come up with that work for the business. And it's like, what about the show and Fair Circuit? We love it, as soon as it comes back, it's a fantastic revenue source.
You know, if you understand how to get the biggest ROI out of them, you can go back to earlier episodes of this podcast and we talk about some of the techniques and tactics. If this is you, you can do incredibly well with them, right, you can do incredibly well. Now, you still have to pay booth fees, you still have to travel, you still have to be on your feet for eight plus hours a day, walking out of them, ROI positive is never guaranteed but we still love them, right? If you can make them pay, they are great, highly recommend them, but they're on the top block of the pyramid, they come after the other two are sorted. What about the retail galleries? We love them, we love them. If you can get into a gallery and make it pay, amazing, there's lots of benefits, right.
There's the prestige, you don't have to do any marketing or you don't have to work to find the buyers, but you don't get to keep your customer data though, do you? Uh-uh, your collector list is not gonna be happy about that one, you're not gonna be building it, you're not gonna know who your collectors are, and you know, I've talked to several people. We have one guy that's a customer and he was doing extremely well, and the gallery's closed and instantaneously his whole world changed, and there's no recourse because you don't have a list of collectors. So there's also that 50, 50 revenue split thing, but look, if you can make them pay, fantastic, love it, they can be absolutely great. What about the online galleries? You know, your Saatchi, your Thunder America, your Redbubble, your Etsy, your, any of the rest of them, we love them.
If you can make them pay with minimal work on your part, we love them, right? You don't grow your customer lists though, do you? Don't grow your collector list, and also because they're easy to do, you know, and easy to get into for the most part everybody puts their stuff there, so they're highly competitive. And I would say, I know there are some people on some of those sites that are doing extremely well, there's got to be, right, but you know the thousands and thousands and thousands that I've had come in week-in, week-out, art business workshops, the ones that tell me that they're doing this, I said, really, how's that going? How's that working out? And I asked them the revenue numbers and they're always small numbers, there's always small numbers. I know there's exceptions, I know there's a few, the larger point is, you can't depend on it as a serious revenue source which is why it's at the top of the pyramid, but if they're working, you're making them pay, fantastic, we love them. You know, what about anything else that leverages your artistic creativity and brings in revenue, we love it. I mean, the next lockup is literally any other additional revenue source you could possibly contemplate, right? Like, whatever it might be, we love it, but it's on the top.
And I think, you know, they all fall into, in addition to having those other two good to go. And you get this business model in place, you understand the rules, you start working on building your attention day in, day out, that battle that we all fight, the battle that we're all gonna be continuing to fight for the foreseeable future, you understand, and have these three ways of selling art deployed in your business, you're building that collector list, you're deploying selling art via video where you can, and let's be honest, we all have a ton of practice to do on that one, right. There's a ton of learning, a ton of Tradecraft, you know, all the Art Storefronts customers will like shift an art show, or a live show, or their first basement sale, or whatever it might be, and they're like, I did it, it was awesome. And you know, they'll ask for feedback on the office hours and I always say the same thing, and it's like, good, now go do a thousand of them, now go do a thousand of them because that's how much practice we all need at that particular venue, avenue tactic of selling art, it's important.
But I think you have that all sorted, right, you're working on the attention. Again, you've got the business model, the customer list, you're working on the three ways, you potentially have some other additional revenue sources going. You stay at that for a period of years and you have an unshakable business, you have a business that can't be taken away from you, you have a business where you set the rules, you have business that's continuing to grow year over year, over year, you're building that collector list, they're buying more and more and more, it's the path. That's the way, it's the smartest way, it's the best way I think to build something where, you know, you got a genuine shot at growing something amazing, right. Like you get this whole thing in place, you have this pyramid in place, and it's gonna stand for thousands of years, like the Mexican one behind me. But, you know, it's just the way to go about it and the way to do things, and I've talked to so, so many that have one or two aspects, but don't have all of the aspects, and, you know, the days turn into months, turn into years and these blocks are not in the pyramid, and you know, it's heartbreaking because you're five, six, seven, 10 years down the line and your business could be in such a better place.
So that's the name, I'm sticking to it for the time being, if I come up with a better one perhaps we'll leverage that one in the future but for now, it is "The Art Selling Pyramid." So on that note, thanks for listening, and as always, have a great day. (upbeat music) (drink fizzing)